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Practices From the Inside Out: Taking Steps Toward Awakening

Practices From the Inside Out: Taking Steps Toward Awakening May 26, 2020

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Some of us feel like we are slowly emerging from a long winter hibernation.

We have stocked up on supplies and barricaded ourselves into a secure place. Our days have been turned upside down and we surrounded ourselves with distractions. Filling our time with crossword puzzles and streaming services and Zoom sessions, we weathered the storm.

Some of us have been been overwhelmed by mourning and loss. We have lost people we love and work which gave us fulfillment. Some of us have had our plans and dreams for the future ripped away from us, our security stolen.

We have closed our eyes and wished everything would go away, crying ourselves to sleep.

This is a spring unlike any other we have ever experienced, unlike any we have heard about. It is not surprising we have wished we could make everything go away. Our spring has been like a nightmare and we want to turn over and go back to sleep.

Many of us have needed more rest to make it through this challenging winter and spring of suffering.

Now, after months of closing ourselves off, we are beginning to see signs it is time to take steps toward awakening.

Most of us struggle to avoid awakening. Waking up is often difficult for us because it involves change. We feel comfortable lying still, forgetting the difficulties and challenges which fill our days. Many of us prefer to stay in bed where we do not need to learn new skills or face new situations.

How will we start to move toward awakening into this new day?

What are the steps we need to begin taking toward awakening?

Where will the steps we take toward awakening lead us?

Taking Our First Steps Toward Awakening

For a long time I was asleep to myself.

I did what people expected and told me to do. Spiritual life, I thought, was about finding the right answers. I believed I had found them, but I was sleeping. The life I thought I had was a dream.

While our dreams may have important lessons to teach us, we begin to come alive when we wake up.

As the sky awakens with dawn each day, spiritual life awakens us. Some people experience an instant of epiphany which reveals what has been hidden to them. For some, awakening is a gradual process as we adjust to seeing ourselves in new ways. We may even experience waking up as a combination of instant epiphanies and a gradual opening of our eyes.

Some of us do not want to be disturbed, comfortable in our worlds of sleep and dreams.

Waking up does not necessarily mean we become more active. I was more frenetic when I was asleep to myself. Part of becoming awake and aware is opening ourselves to what comes alive in us. As we wake up we start recognizing not everything depends on what we do.

Waking up to spiritual life may be the most challenging thing we will ever do. We stretch unused muscles and open eyes that protest against new light.

Awakening spiritual life unfolds before us, rolling out in layers of unexplored truth.We realize we can see only a thin sliver of the true picture of reality. As we begin to wake up we continue beginning for the rest of our lives.

We may spend a long time asleep to ourselves. As we wake up, we begin breathing life into our dreams.

The Power of Contemplative Awakening

These last few months have been challenging ones for many of us. We have been confronted with truths we would prefer to avoid. It is easy for us to want to close our eyes again, to turn over and go back to sleep.

Our lives are not contests to determine how much pain we can endure. We do not win points for being able to hold fear or suffering at arm’s length.

Awakening is not about discovering more things to distract us, more things to concern us. We awaken as we find healthy ways to explore and reflect on the challenges in our lives.

Our awakening begins as we become ready to pay attention. We learn how to listen to spiritual life within us. Learning the lessons of our own experience teaches us how to share our own stories.

Listening to the sacred stillness within us, and in the world around us, gives us opportunities to pay attention.

As we listen we slowly awaken to deep truths we have missed.

Our stories may not all have happy endings. Each one, though, has truths and lessons for us to hear and put into practice. We awaken to the power of our shared story as we recognize where our own stories fit.

Awakening to the Fire in Our Hearts

It is easy for us to forget what sets our heart on fire.

Each of us desires the experience of awakening to the fire in our hearts. It may have been a long time since our hearts were set on fire. Many of us have been distracted by other concerns. Some of us even make fun of other people who seek awakening.

When our hearts are ignited it is an experience of awakening. It may be counterintuitive or completely impractical. We might need to behave in a way contrary to all the best advice we have received.

Some of us, tragically, have lost touch with the fire burning in our hearts.
No matter what we have experienced during the last few months, no matter what prices we have paid, awakening can still happen.

We learn to listen and reflect, paying attention to spiritual life within us and in the world around us. No matter how often our hearts have been extinguished, the fire can still be awakened.

What steps will we take toward awakening today?

How can we be awakening to the fire in our hearts this week?

About Greg Richardson
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com. You can read more about the author here.

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